Monday, January 7, 2013

Non Spoiler Review of A Memory of Light

By Linda

Over 20 years after I began reading the Wheel of Time series, here I am writing my review of the final book. When I started my elder son was a newborn and now he’s an adult studying IT while working full time. What a journey the wait has been – the online WOT community, wonderful WOT friends, this blog, visits to the Cons in the US! Sadly it is a journey that Jordan himself did not complete.

This is a non-spoiler review because we’ve waited so many years for the finale that I’m not going to spoil it. Likewise, no matter how much you are tempted, don’t jump ahead to the last scene, which is in RJ’s words, but arrive at it in the proper sequence. Your self-discipline will be rewarded.

Everybody makes a stand on the tatters of existence. There are few shirkers. Losses are huge and dire. There are scenes of great symbolism, and theological /philosophical as well as military crusades, and there should be enough duels to satisfy the who-would-win-in-a-fight? fans. Thankfully the plotlines are less abruptly resolved than in Towers of Midnight. Some things long anticipated pan out as fans have theorised, but others are complete surprises. Also surprising is which prophecies remain unfulfilled and what is not explained. It highlights the loss of any sequel which would perhaps have provided these. Food for discussion for a while yet, I daresay.

My favourite story lines are those of Lanfear, and Demandred, and parts of Lan, and the Black Tower. Forsaken and Dreadlords get just desserts as they are lured by character defects into going too far and paying the price of death or ironic punishment. Regarding characterisation, Perrin and Faile are excellent and the main female characters very good. Tuon is perhaps weakest of the women. Mat’s humour doesn’t wink at the reader as it did in the previous two books, but he does use the odd out-of-series word. Rand is psychologically balanced; more human, less Zen master. Only a bare handful of ‘sleeper’ Darkfriends are revealed, less than I expected, so perhaps some managed to sleep it out.

There are fewer new characters than in Towers of Midnight and some reappearances of minor characters from earlier in the series, although I would have liked more of the latter, to emphasise the ta’veren effect and the cyclic nature of time. I think that the lack of reference to a couple of characters, one important to the fight against the Shadow, the other formative to Rand, is regrettable. A positive is that there is less promoting one character by making the other characters in the scene look foolish.

The book is one of the few volumes in the series with no new chapter icon. The writing has lots of adjectives and is florid at times, but I suppose if there ever was a time for hyperbole… The POVs are switched well to keep the story line moving and maintain excitement, essential in the extremely long Last Battle chapter (truly the Two Hundred Pages War). With its great length and 72 POVs it gives a feel of the grinding battle.

Appropriately, Rand’s confrontation with the Dark One looks back to their previous battle at the end of The Eye of the World . The end of the battle also hearkens back to The Eye of the World prologue that brought so many into the series. The Wheel turns.

It’s interesting that there is reliance on weaves, especially new uses for known weaves, rather than One Power devices, whereas, in contrast, real world industrial technology features. Another point is that stewardship – caring for the people and the Land - legitimises rule, not inheritance or military might.

Many readers will feel that details or conversations should have been written differently – however, tellingly these will vary from reader to reader – but the overall Pattern is very satisfying and well done.

The ending – modestly described as an ending - is bitter-sweet and no fairy tale. Just as in the final tally of gains and losses of the Last Battle, we are reminded that we have been given so much over the last twenty odd years and in Brandon’s and Team Jordan’s great efforts to bring the series to fulfilment, but we also lost a lot too in Jordan’s untimely passing.

And so our march to Tarmon Gai’don is done. Let the Wheel turn.


I’ve been busy writing a new essay which incorporates quite a bit of material from A Memory of Light and it will be posted next week. A Memory of Light provides new information for the character and the myths, symbols and themes essays and a few of these essays will have major additions. However the world-building articles won’t require as much updating.


Neth said...

nice review. It's tough to not include spoilers for a review like this. So much is lost - which is why I'm doing 3 posts later - a non-spoiler review, a sort of spoiler reation post, and then a short interview I did with Brandon.

I'm soarly tempted to go ahead and post them since it is Jan 8th somewhere (as you well know), but I've got them scheduled for Jan 8, 12am EST here in the US.

It has been quite a journey.

Linda said...

Thanks, Ken. It's true about spoilers, and some have a very wide definition of spoiler, so much so that they probably shouldn't read any review until after they've read the book.

I read all your posts and they were excellent.

Anonymous said...

Ordered my copy so long ago that I completely forgot to reread the rest until I got the email telling me about about a small refund because of the price going down a little where I am getting it fromm two weeks ago.

Just got the Email telling me it has been sent and it is killing me that I have to work all week and cant just sit there waiting for it to show up and take my time reading it

Fragrant Elephant said...

Thanks for the review, Leigh. Can't wait for my copy to arrive, hopefully tomorrow!

Just one thing -- you wrote, "It’s interesting that there is reliance on weaves, especially new uses for known weaves, rather than One Power devices, whereas, in contrast, real world industrial technology features."

What did the last part of that sentence mean?

Linda said...

Nicole: I hope your copy arrives ASAP!

What I mean is that technology that we would recognise (non-magic technology) plays a part.

Anonymous said...

You mentioned two characters don't appear - who?

I'm kinda fuzzy brained after reading over 900 pages of book in less than 2 days but even so I feel like I should know if 2 important characters were absent; the only person I can think of who's totally missing is Elaida, but well we know what happened to her ;)

Linda said...

These two characters are not alive, which is why I said they are not mentioned and not that they did not appear.

One is someone instrumental in exposing the Shadow, as I said. The other helped form Rand's character and would link to the end of the Eye of the WOrld.

I'm not posting spoilers.

Kristi Deming said...

I hope your essay will include explanations behind two "new" names that are used by a certain "someone"...because I'm scouring the internet for clues and it's driving me NUTTIER than LTT!!

Linda said...

Kristi: I certainly have one "new" name in my essay that I talk about.

Anonymous said...

Finished the book last night. Certainly enjoyed it. Your hints are quite accurate. I liked the new uses for some of the existing weaves.

A lot of lingering questions were gratefully answered, but one I still bugs me, who was Nakomi ? Will the timing work for her to have been Verin ?

Linda said...

Nakomi appears to be an Aiel dreamwalker from the past who has projected herself this time in the dream.

Her appearance at the end of AMOL does not work for her being Verin.

Nicholas Alexander said...

Oh, I assumed we were to understand Nakomi to be something along the lines of a projection of the Creator, kind of like Shaidar Haran. Partly because of the timing and circumstances, and also because her physical description makes her seem an awful lot like Harriet.

So then how did that...swap...between the two men (at the very end of the book) happen? One of those mysteries we're not going to get an answer to?

Linda said...

Nicholas, that is another possibility which some readers have proposed. Shaidar Haran does not speak in caps, so neither should the avatar of the Creator. However, the Creator said in TEOTW that s/he would take no part, and Nakomi definitely did take part in the battle by getting Aviendha to rethink.

So, perhaps the Aiel dreamwalker theory is more likely.

Anonymous said...

Finished it! Kinda sad that the wheel of time series is over, but at least it was worth the wait! I wonder if Brandon will wright the outrigger novels that Jordan said he might write after the last book. His style is not the same, but as as one general falls in battle another must take up the baton (or quill in this case). Any thoughts about it? or should another writer try?

Linda said...

Anon: Brandon has announced that there will be no outrigger novels. RJ left very little plot for them. However, there will be an Encyclopedia. After that, the series is finished.

Anthony said...

But the creator was involved. The Creator told Rand when it was time.

Linda said...

The Creator agreed with Rand's actions because it was time.

However, Nakomi took a more active role by challenging Aviendha's thinking, which is why I don't think she was an avatar of the Creator.

Anthony said...

Rand, "Was it the right time?"

Creator, "IT IS TIME."

I'm paraphrasing slightly but only slightly. Rand expresses doubt and the Creator squashes that doubt.

Barryhn said...

Thanks for the review - this was enough to whet my appetite in the weeks leading up to release. (Not reading your Demandred article was bloody hard - I hadn't the money to buy my copy straight away, had to lock myself away form all possible spoilerage)

Finished it last night - took me 3 and a bit days of reading on bus journeys to and from work, and in lunch breaks, and one final long session (4 hours or so) last night after work.

Love the ending, the pace of the book never let up from the first page. Am definitely going to have to read it again to catch all the bits i'm sure i missed.

it did feel a little rushed and over frantic in parts, but there was a lot to resolve in 900 pages.

I actually like that we didn't get a full run-down of what happened after to every character - to me that little bit of ambiguity feels like a gift from RJ to the amateur and fan writers and the many WoT theorists. Something uncertain to be able to continue the community with. Though it has annoyed a few readers (at least that's what i guess having read a bit of the forums on the subject.)

A good, satisfying ending to a series that has shaped my thoughts on how fantasy writing can be. And a nice twist at the end too. All the characters I hoped would live did, except for one, and their passing was one of the most spectacular and emotional things I've ever read.

I Salute you Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson, Harriet Rigney and all of team Jordan. you did a grand job and I doubt I'll see another series like this again in my life, unless I'm a very lucky man indeed

Cat Cook said...

Did I see that Harriet is writing an appendix to the series? I'm a latecomer to this blog; reading a review without spoilers after having already finished is quite interesting!

Linda said...

Not an appendix. There will be an encyclopedia.

Mirza Ghalib said...

A long-awaited finale to Jordan's Wheel of Time series; taut, racy, well characterized. Unputdownable, but yes the book is bit hefty, to put it mildly. Rand, Elayne, Egwene, Matt, Perrin, the Aes Sedai, Saidin and Saidar interwoven into a fine tapestry come together for a truly spectacular close. If you read the 13th book quite some time ago, you might need to revisit it to get a better grasp/grip on this one. I would say, that the initial Jordan books (up to, say, Book No 6) were pretty gripping, after that the series kind of lagged, one that you read, not because you were too keen, but because you hated to leave a series mid-way. Crossroads of Twilight upped the ante again and the last three by Brandon Sanderson were truly worth it.

Love Punjabi said...

A Memory of Light is one of the most awaited book by Jordon.I have personally read all the books of this author.I suggest starting with the initial versions of this book then move to higher ones.